By Marc Kovac
COLUMBUS — A Milford, Ohio, man is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to force Struthers officials to release criminal case records that he believes are public documents.
The legal action was filed earlier this week by Ross Hardin against Linda Aey, Atty. Carol Clemente Wagner and the city of Struthers. Aey is the municipal court clerk, and Clemente Wagner is the city’s law director.
According to the filing, Hardin visited Struthers Municipal Court in late November and requested records from a pending criminal case involving Nicholas Serrecchio, who has been charged with burglary.
Aey would not release the files, however. Hardin was not a defendant in either case, and “Aey declared ... that if he wanted to receive such records, he would have to file for discovery from the prosecutor’s office,” according to documents.
Hardin made his request a few days later in writing, and in late December was contacted by a Struthers police detective asking why he wanted them and what was his relationship to the case.
And a couple of days after that, during a meeting with Clement Wagner, Hardin received a single-page document, which she indicated “was all that she was comfortable providing,” according to documents. A search warrant and other documents related to the cases were not released, because “the matter was still an ... ongoing investigation,” according to documents.
Hardin and his legal counsel, Atty. Curt Hartman from Amelia, disagree.
“The courts have quite clearly said, if they’re a public record, they’re a public record regardless if there’s an ongoing investigation,” Hartman said.
Hardin is seeking the release of the documents, plus attorneys’ fees and any other applicable statutory damages.
Clemente Wagner would not comment beyond saying she gave Hardin copies of what she considered public record regarding the case. Aye did not return a Vindicator request to comment. Mayor Terry Stocker also refused comment.
Hardin’s Supreme Court suit against Struthers demands more in-depth information about a case involving Serrecchio, of John Street, Struthers.
Serrecchio, 21, is accused of breaking into a Grimm Heights structure Nov. 21, 2008, for which he was charged with felony burglary. A preliminary hearing in the matter is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Friday in Struthers Municipal Court.
Hardin’s interest in the Serrecchio burglary case and a search warrant issued by the municipal court related to the burglary is not explained in his suit.